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UNDERSTANDING PREMISES LIABILITY: A COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE

Updated: Sep 1, 2023

Premises liability refers to the legal responsibility of property owners to ensure the safety of individuals who enter their premises. When someone is injured on another person's property due to negligence, they may be able to seek compensation for their injuries. However, there are certain limitations on recovering for premises liability, and property owners have a duty of care to maintain a safe environment. This outline will explore these limitations and the property owner's duty of care in premises liability cases.

Limitations on Recovering for Premises Liability

A comparison of contributory negligence and assumption of risk is important to understand when it comes to premises liability cases. Both doctrines are typically used to reduce or deny a plaintiff's claim. The primary difference between the two doctrines is that contributory negligence requires that the plaintiff was partially at fault for the incident, while assumption of risk requires that the plaintiff voluntarily assumed the risks associated with the activity.


Contributory Negligence

  • Contributory negligence is a legal doctrine that states that if a plaintiff is partially at fault for an injury or damage, they are not entitled to any damages from the defendant. This means that if the plaintiff is even partially at fault for the incident, the defendant can avoid responsibility for the injury or damage. This doctrine is sometimes used in premises liability cases to reduce or deny a plaintiff’s claim.

Assumption of Risk

  • Assumption of risk is a legal doctrine that states that if a plaintiff assumes the risk of an activity, they cannot hold the defendant liable for any injuries or damages that occur as a result of that activity. This doctrine is often used in premises liability cases to reduce or deny a plaintiff's claim. In order for a defendant to successfully plead assumption of risk, they must prove that the plaintiff was aware of the risks associated with the activity and voluntarily assumed them.

Statute of Limitations

  • The statute of limitations is a legal concept that limits the amount of time a person has to bring a legal claim for damages. It is important to understand how the statute of limitations applies to premises liability cases in order to determine if the case is still viable. Generally, the statute of limitations in premises liability cases is two years from the date of the incident. This means that if the injured party does not file a lawsuit within two years of the incident, they will be barred from recovering damages.


Property Owner's Duty of Care

Duty to Keep Safe Premises

  • Property owners have a legal responsibility to keep their premises safe for visitors. This means they must maintain their property in a way that minimizes any foreseeable risks to visitors. This includes regularly inspecting and repairing any potential hazards. The property owner must also warn visitors of any known hazards that cannot be repaired or eliminated. This duty of care applies to all visitors, including customers, tenants, and trespassers.

Duty to Warn of Known Hazards

  • Property owners must also warn visitors of any known hazards that cannot be repaired or eliminated. This includes warning of any dangerous conditions which the property owner is aware of or should reasonably be aware of, such as a wet floor, broken stairs, or uneven pavement. Property owners must also provide signs or other warnings of any potential risks.

Duty to Inspect and Repair

  • Property owners also have a duty to inspect and repair any property that may pose a risk to visitors. This duty includes any potential hazards that may be present, such as broken stairs, uneven pavement, or other dangerous conditions. Property owners must take reasonable steps to repair any known hazards and ensure that their visitors are not exposed to harm.


While individuals who are injured on someone else's property due to negligence may be able to seek compensation through premises liability claims, there are limitations on recovering for such cases. Contributory negligence, assumption of risk, and the statute of limitations can all impact the ability to recover damages. Additionally, property owners have a duty of care to maintain safe premises, warn of known hazards, and inspect and repair their property. Failing to fulfill these duties can lead to legal consequences. It is important for both property owners and individuals entering premises to understand these limitations and duties to ensure safety and protect their rights.

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